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Updated: May 16, 2012 01:17 IST

Nair concealed facts from Cabinet on Antrix deal: CAG

  • P. Sunderarajan
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G. Madhavan Nair. File Photo: K. Murali Kumar
The Hindu
G. Madhavan Nair. File Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Things have got tougher for the former Secretary of the Department of Space and former ISRO Chairman, G. Madhavan Nair, with the Comptroller and Auditor-General also finding fault with the way the Space Department, under his stewardship, went about the deal between ISRO's Antrix Corporation and the Bangalore-based private firm, Devas Multimedia.

Calling the Antrix-Devas agreement a “classic case of public investment for private profit,” the CAG, in a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, noted that Mr. Nair failed to convene meetings of the INSAT Coordination Committee as its Chairman and as a result, the concerns of key stakeholders, represented through the Secretaries of different Ministries and Departments, were “effectively blocked off” in the decision-making process.

“The Department of Space [under Mr. Nair], in its eagerness, went beyond its remit as laid down in the Allocation of Business Rules [of the government], concealed facts from the Union Cabinet and violated numerous rules, policies, and procedures.”

The department took upon itself the task of approving the new hybrid S-band DMB service, which, as in the case of DTH services, was the prerogative of the Union Cabinet. “Valuable spectrum frequencies, including 10 MHz, were to be reserved for strategic purposes, [but] were earmarked for Devas without obtaining approval of the Wireless Planning and Coordination [WPC] wing of the DoT [Department of Telecommunication].”

Likewise, the report noted, the Space Department had “suppressed” the crucial fact that it had already signed an agreement with Devas, while seeking Cabinet approval for the launch of the GSAT-6 satellite, and also failed to inform the Cabinet that GSAT-6 and 6 A satellites, proposed to be funded from the government budget, were to be used almost entirely by a private commercial entity.

“To avoid the obtaining of approval of the Cabinet, the DoS [Department of Space] estimated the cost of GSAT-6A, the subsequent satellite of a similar configuration after GSAT-6, at Rs. 147 crore so that it fell within the financial competence of the Space Commission [though] the first GSAT-6 satellite had been costed at Rs. 269 crore.”

It also complained that Devas was extended a host of benefits to promote the interests of the U.S.-based private consultancy firm, Forge Advisors, which had set up Devas, including earmarking for it 70 MHz of S-band spectrum for an indefinite period of time, ignoring its revenue potential to the government.

“Subsequent events like the auction of 3G in which the government received Rs. 67,719 crore and the auction of Broadband Wireless Access where the government received Rs. 38,543 crore revealed that the possibility of obtaining commensurate amounts for providing this commercial service was never explored.”

The Antrix-Devas pact also “cherry-picked” from two different models in a way that it extended maximum benefits to Devas, the report said and complained that the Space Department “further went on to revise the contract to ‘reassure the investors' so that even before engaging in any trading, manufacturing ground segment development activity and rolling out of any service, it could raise Rs. 575.6 crore from foreign investors.”

Noting that there was need for the government to ensure that there was no conflict of interest so that fundamental integrity of decisions, departments and the government was not undermined, the CAG said that in the case of the Space Department such an issue was evident in the multiple roles exercised by Mr. Nair.

“As Chairman, ISRO, he appointed the Shankara Committee to examine the proposals of Forge Advisors. As Secretary, Department of Space, he submitted a note to the Cabinet, in which critical facts were concealed. As Chairman, Space Commission, he chaired meetings where approval to GSAT-6 and 6A were accorded.”

The CAG noted “the public interest and those of the government were sacrificed to favour a private consultancy firm, which was promoted by Sh D. Venugopal and Sh. M.G. Chandrasekhar, retired employees of the ISRO.”

“The Antrix-Devas deal,” it said, “is a classic instance of failure of the governance structure in which selected individuals, some serving and some retired public servants, were able to successfully propel the agenda of a private entity by arrogating unto themselves powers which they were not legitimately authorised to exercise.”

It also pointed out that “in the parliamentary system of government, the Cabinet has a role of centrality in the exercise of executive power. The fact that a group of individuals was able to conceal facts and side-step the Cabinet is a testimony to the extent of abuse of the trust reposed in them. This needs to be addressed.”

More In: National | News

Mr. Nair defended his service actions/decisions on all news channels on
prime time without losing any opportunity to present only his side of
tale. He explained and defended his malicious deeds and cursed the
authorities for showing disrespect and dishonoring his contribution to
space agency.

from:  Subhash Rajguru
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 18:37 IST

CAG, is constituted with a group of non corrupt and committed people (everybody believes). Dr. Madhavan Nair is known for his unblemished career record for the long years of his service. Now, our government have a moral right to inform the general public "the truth" after throrough probe in to the matter, which we expect, will be done without much delay.

from:  samson
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 18:35 IST

Classic case of a scape-goat being made! How does the CAG office
arrive at these "assumed figures"? Do they consult competent
experts or just extrapolate figures that they have? The whole
controversy is based on these assumptions, many independent and
eminent experts have spoken that CAG is misguided. Now to do the
damage control, a report. I pity Nair and others who selflessly
served the country for these many years, at the end of the day
they cant even carry home some dignity. And all this for what, for
trying to make things happen. I was amused at one particular
wording in the report "eagerness", yes eagerness to get something
good for the country. We as citizens should take this also into
consideration. Current Chairman, lesser said the better, wont be
long before his in-capabilities are exposed, and how he has been
silently operating behind the scenes to satisfy his personal
vendetta. He has got a good corporate communication team set up,
is what the internal grapevine says.

from:  John C
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 18:32 IST

Dear George and Mathew,

You know very well that Madhavan Nair is innocent until fouund guilty in the eyes of the law. Let us not jump to conclusions too quickly. Let the court proceedings begin. What I mean is it is too big an event to go unnoticed

It is all very dandy for the Controller and Auditor General to submit a report. When Mr Nair is doing space calculations and submiting his contribution to the nation one should have the decency to acknowledge it. When Mr Nair is busy with scientific work signatures can be faked and meetings can be manipulated. We have to also find out Mr. Vinod Rai's motivations. It is too big an event to go unnoticed and my gut feeling is Mr Nair would not take such a risk in risking his reputation.

It is this very attitude that we have Maoists coming up in India.

Abraham Lincoln: You can fool some people all the time, you can fool all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Mr Rai.

from:  Krishnan
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 16:50 IST

As Oscar wilde puts it, "Truth is rarely pure and never simple".and especially in India the actual truth never emerges.May be he is honest or may be guilty,May be he acted alone or acted in collusion and with politicians who merely made him a scapegoat.

from:  Veerabhadram
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 15:40 IST

Dear Mathew @ 13.56 May 16th

So you are judge, jury and prosecutor. Perhaps you should join the the honourable GOI which is doing such a wonderful job of protecting national interest across a spectrum of priorities not to say Department of Space.

from:  Deepak
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 15:37 IST

Finally the truth came out . Dr Madhavan Nair is found guilty by CAG. Thanks to Dr Radhakrishnan, the present chairman in exposing this shady deal which would have costed government 1000s of crores destined for poorest of this country . Unfortunately certain other top scientists also supported Madhavan Nair . We have to investigate their role aslo in this corruption . Let the scientists rememeber that nobody is born a scientist but the country made them scientists. And they owe their position to the common man of this country and cannot demand touch-me-not attitude when evidence of courruption points squarely at them .

from:  Mathew
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 13:56 IST

When the news came out, many were accusing the UPA govt of not respecting the scientists, and what not. Now, the CAG report confirms that everything was not OK. Similarly, when the govt is accused of some mis-management, everyone joins in TV talk-show judgment. However, recently when the conflict between army officers and lower ranks were discussed, many army and ex-army officers wanted least discussion and were saying about the inappropriateness of TV trial. As Indians, we are corrupt in every way; we complain only when a more corrupt person/group out-smarts us. Even the 'holy' Team Anna leaders' actual faces were shown in public. Thankfully there are some honest persons too in most fields.

from:  George Varghese
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 10:52 IST

The swift and curt justice meted out to Mr Nair stands in stark contrast to actions against corrupt politicians and IAS officers who have a lot more to answer for. Mr. Nair may well be "guilty as charged" or "innocent" but the manner in which we have treated him disregarding decades of service to the nation and also the other 3 who were blacklisted is a national shame.
It would have been fair to give him the full benefit of doubt, given his contribution to our nation to allow him clarify in the most legal, open and transparent manner (in full public view) dispelling all doubts and then have sanctioned him as also the three others. This would have only strengthened the faith of the common man in the impartial and factual nature of Mr. Nair's condemnation. It is a sad day for many patriots who love our country unconditionally.

from:  Deepak
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 09:45 IST

Thank God India has this CAG -Mr Vinod Rai .
If only a few more such Vinod Rai's would appear on the horizon for India in the various critical Govt depts , India could be saved from the corrupt politicians , beauraucrats and also corrupt media .

I am sure India has many such individuals .

Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 09:14 IST

Can the story be treated as complete? Can anyone believe that the
geometry and anatomy of corruption is so simple? Is it not possible
that Mr Madhavan Nair is a scapegoat who may have been under duress to
go by the designs of others? Sharing another perspective that under a
regime which has corporatised corruption, people like Mr Madhavan Nair
may had upon them pressures to observe silence or act simply on dotted
lines. During the last two decades, the whole system had been manipulated to perpetuate corruption and those who profess or vocal
about honesty could not have made their rise in the hierarchy. The
biggest people have been rendering advice to go silent on corruption
issues and the philosophy given by such Manus on top levels had been
"Live and Let Live" - be silent and take advantage or else you will be
victimized and humiliated. Mr Madhavan Nair may have faced a similar
situation. He could not have risen in the hierarchy had he been giving
expression for his conscience...

from:  Hari Nayar
Posted on: May 16, 2012 at 09:01 IST
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